This The Flash review contains spoilers.
The Flash Season 3 Episode 9
At this point, I don’t know what else to say about The Flash Season 3. I was so thoroughly disillusioned by the back half of season two and not particularly thrilled about the use of Flashpoint as a major story driver early on that I was perfectly ready to be kinda psyched for this show to just be OK this year, and I would have probably been cool with that.
But no. Instead, The Flash has delivered the longest sustained run of exceptional episodes in the show’s history so far this year. And the key to this might just be variety.
“The Present” couldn’t possibly have been a bigger shift from “Invasion!” but then again, “Invasion!” wasn’t exactly an episode of The Flash, and rather just an episode of CW DC Superheroes Having Fun. So the last “proper” episode of this show was really two weeks ago with the similarly excellent “Killer Frost.” But “Killer Frost” was primarily focused on one character’s journey, while “The Present” was, understandably, the most important episode of the year so far.
We got a satisfactory explanation and wrap-up for the Alchemy story tonight, hopefully one that means we’re done with the “Flashpoint as metahuman story engine” phase of the show. As expected, Julian, or should I say, J. Albert Desmond (more on that down below!) wasn’t revealed as some mustache-twirling dickhead, but rather, a run-of-the-mill misguided dickhead, and one who I imagine has more of an arc to fulfill. After all, now that he’s warming up to everyone and the audience is warming up to him, he’s surely a dead man, right?
“The Present” also solved some of my worries about Savitar, who I was beginning to fear would become just another speed powerhouse, kind of like Zoom was last year when there was still some mystery attached to him. His beatdown of Jay Garrick initially felt a little bit like how Zoom treated Barry like a ragdoll in a similarly excellent (atypical) season two episode. But no, Savitar is perhaps far scarier, because while his claims of divinity are surely nonsense, his ability to see the future is probably, at least a little, legitimate.
And instead of playing the mystery game like Arrow did (to its detriment) in season four with the grave, we now know exactly who is doomed this season. Unless, of course, we don’t. It seems unlikely that Iris will meet the fate that we saw here, but that doesn’t mean that somebody else won’t have to take her place. I can’t imagine that this vision won’t go in some way unfulfilled, likely right when Barry has started to forgive himself for his recent mistakes to drag him back down again. Normally, I might complain about this, but seeing as how this season has done almost nothing but make the right choices in terms of the big picture so far, I have no reason to doubt that the next five months or so of this show will be anything less than thoroughly compelling.
As a side note, and I’ve mentioned this a couple of times this year, Carlos Valdes has been brilliant. Even with the little bit of resolution we got between him and Barry during “Invasion” he’s still carrying that weight around, and his scenes with his “brother” were just tremendous.
Or maybe I can complain about how easily everyone had a change of heart about Wally being a hero and having HR train him. But the reality is that there’s no reason to doubt Wally’s evolution at this point considering how quickly Barry went from zero-to-superhero in the very first episode of the show. Why overthink this? Keiynan Lonsdale has settled nicely into the role, and I think Wally deserves that costume, too. Plus, this means at some point later this year we’re going to get three, possibly four speedsters taking on Savitar. This is a wonderful thing.
And speaking of extra speedsters…
If you read these reviews often enough, you know two things about me: I love Jay Garrick and always have, and he’s one of my favorite comic book characters. You also know that I will never have anything but praise for the great John Wesley Shipp. When we finally got to see these two things I love combine last year, well, you can imagine my joy. But this episode, while only our third with Shipp as Garrick, is the one where this really clicked, where it stopped being a (wonderful) piece of fan service, and where we got the real benefit of the whole concept.
Unsurprisingly, Shipp is terrific as Jay. Perhaps a little surprising, though, is just how well he has managed to distinguish Jay from Henry Allen. Jay is more than a strong-jawed hero type, he’s the most experienced superhero we’ve seen on any of the CW DC shows ever, and it shows. I could imagine him giving orders to anyone we hung out with in the “Invasion” crossover, for example, and I suspect even Oliver would be like, “y’know what? I’m gonna listen to this guy.” He also plays Jay without the sadness that hung over Henry all the time, but considering we also had a “normal/happy” Henry Allen in Flashpoint earlier this season, the distinction between the two performances is even greater than that. It looks like we’re going to spend more time with him later this season, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
I said this about “Killer Frost” and I have to say it again about “The Present.” They got enough work done this week for two episodes. I’m amazed at just how economical this show can be, how it managed to sneak that massive crossover in between two of its best episodes without missing a beat, and how it has completely erased my lingering doubts. It’s at once a superhero show with all of the fixings (the Earth 3 segment was pure nerdy joy) and a sci-fi show with alternate reality/time travel elements that would work without the costumes at least half the time. As a bonus, we have the strongest supporting cast in superhero TV history.
And they even gave us a happy ending. It really is like Christmas. See? “Some traditions are multiversal!”
– Oh, holy moley…Earth-3 couldn’t have been more perfect. I love that they gave it a kind of old-timey aesthetic, and the fact that dirigibles are in use there feels like a nod to Batman: The Animated Series.
Of course, as you all know, Mark Hamill (who is this guy? Anyone ever heard of him?) also played Trickster on the original The Flash TV series…which starred John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen. This was wonderful seeing the two of them square off again. But it was really wonderful in that I really can’t imagine a more perfect few minutes of Golden Age Flash in live action than this. I could watch this sequence over and over (and probably will), and would watch the hell out of a Jay Garrick spinoff or TV movie. C’mon, CW!
– Finally! We get alchemy’s real name and an origin story that, while not quite comic book accurate (and who cares, right?) definitely nods in all the right directions. The two big points you need to care about: Julian’s full name is J. Albert Desmond! It’s the “Albert Desmond” part that lines up with his comic book identity. And comics Albert also had issues early on where the “good” part of his personality didn’t always know what he was getting up to as Alchemy. We wrote more on this subject right here.
Alchemy’s expository monologue about creating all of the Flashpoint metas should have been awful, but it was just such a perfect piece of supervillain monologuing that I can’t help but excuse it/love it.
I don’t have to mention anything about how cool it is seeing Tom Felton talking about the Philospher’s Stone do I? Of course not.
Also! The “Indiana Jones” portion of his origin there kinda reminded me a little of the Shazam! origin story both in The Power of Shazam DC Comics from the ’90s (which are, I might add, the best Shazam stories since the 1940s/1950s, courtesy of Jerry Ordway) and the extraordinarily great The Adventures of Captain Marvel movie serial from 1940, which I swear I will get around to writing about 2,000 words on one of these days, because you all need to watch it.
– So, they took down Alchemy at the Schultz Building? Could it be the Schulz Building? You know, as a nod to Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz and his wonderful A Charlie Brown Christmas? No? Did they say Schwartz Building? Because in that case, they’re just talking about Julie Schwartz, which is also cool.
– So…the weird future that Barry sees that may or may not come to pass may or may not be Hypertime, a DC Comics concept that, ummm…I don’t really get into right now. BUT there was a clue there (on Infantino Street…and you know by now that Barry’s co-creator was the legendary Carmine Infantino). The guy who was on trial was Jared Morillo, and in the comics, Morillo was only a bad guy (Plunder) as an alternate universe verion of himself. So maybe…just maybe…Barry wasn’t in the future after all? Like I said, it could be Hypertime, which is kind of like a migraine, but with DC Comics continuity.
– Seriously, Iris can’t die at Savitar’s hands. There’s another fate in store for her. Whoops, I’ve said too much!
As usual, it is my pleasure to write this nonsense for you all every week. The Flash returns on January 24th. Have a wonderful holiday season, everyone. If you miss me, I’m usually running my mouth on Twitter!